Disclaimer: All characters taken from Space Above & Beyond belong to Fox Network, that show's writers and producers. There are quotes in this story from Shakespeare, E.A. Poe, "The Book Of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi translation by Thomas Cleary, "Te-Tao Ching" by Lao-Tzu translation by Robert G. Henricks, "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, the title and the four lines of poetry at the beginning, are from "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". The poem in the last chapter, I think, was written by my grandmother. If it wasn't, my thanks to the author for expressing so beautifully what both she and Jenny felt. I've borrowed the name of General Frank Savage and the 918th Air Wing from the movie "Twelve O'clock High". This is in tribute to one of my favorite movies, the characters are not meant to resemble one another at all..

Rating: PG/R (for language)



Phyllis Christie

   The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
   Will lure it back to cancel half a Line
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

We thought we were alone.
We believed the Universe was ours.
Until one night in 2063, on an Earth Colony,
sixteen light years away, they struck.

And we went to war!

My name is Colonel T.C. McQueen, Retired.
I am an In-vitro, a race of artificially gestated humans.
I commanded the Marine Corps squadron:
The 58th, known as the Wildcards. We fought when called, in space, on land and at sea.

To have lost that war meant more than defeat.
To have surrendered was to never go home.
All of us had to rise to the call:
Above and Beyond.

This is the story of how I learned what I was really
fighting for and where home really is!

Chapter ONE
Of Hammerhead Fuel & Tea Roses

Earth Spring 2063

“Damn scientists,” the man behind the large desk swore as he crumpled the report he had just read. He could hardly believe that those bleeding heart liberals had been able to raise enough sympathy for Tanks after the recent assassination of Secretary General Chartwell. Everything had been planned so carefully. Tanks would take the heat for killing Chartwell, and he would introduce a bill to have in-vitros returned to indentured servitude permanently. Once the bill passed, he would move to become the power behind the new Secretary General. Now five doctors were raising a cry of rights for those damn nipple necks! Taking a deep breath, he let go of his anger as he decided what to do to regain the upper hand.

An hour and three phone calls later, he leaned back in his chair puffing on a cigar and sipping a brandy, smiling as he contemplated how surprised those five doctors were going to be the next morning. It was a shame really. They were all so bright. Too bad they had to die, but in the line of duty of course. After all, there is a war on.

October 20, 2063 Planet Kordis:

“Sarg. Stark,” Lt. Com. Jennifer Kirkwood, MD, whispered as she quietly crept to the mouth of the cave, where they had been hiding for the last 3 1/2 weeks. “I’m here to relieve you for the night. Anything new to report?”

“No, ma’am,” the Sargent shifted slightly to face the small blond doctor who had been keeping them all alive since their ISSCV crashed on planet. “I haven’t seen anything move all watch. There’s nothing but that damn wind.”

“Let me check your leg before you turn in. Any sign of fever?” Jenny ran her hands over the splint that was keeping her Corpsman’s femur and tibia immobile, “how’s the pain?”

“No fever and the pain’s manageable, Doc,” Stark grunted as her gentle hands moved over the area of the breaks. “You save any pain killers you got left for the General.”

"Thanks," Jenny's gray eyes met Stark's as she did a quick assessment of him. "But John, if it gets too bad, let me know. I need you too badly for you to be playing hero and passing out."

"Don't worry, Ma'am, I'm no hero, but same goes for you, Lady-Doc," he warned. "When do you want me back on guard?"

"I'll take it for the night. I won't be able to get any sleep until I know that General Savage survived surgery."

"Doc," Stark pulled back on the weapon he was handing over. "You did the right thing."

"I just hope he still thinks so when he wakes up," Jenny whispered. "Give me that and..ahh if you could check on the others one last time for me before you turn in, I'd appreciate it."

"Sure thing, Ma'am," Stark pulled himself to where the others were sleeping. Gritting his teeth he ignored the pain that shot from his broken leg. If the little Lady-Doc could hang tough, so could he. He suspected she knew just how much pain he was in. Nothing much got past her.

Jenny took position at the mouth of the cave. Lt. Davis, the pilot of their downed craft, had told her they had the perfect defendable position: a cave cut into a cliff wall to their backs and a steep rocky path 200 feet above the crash site, the only way up. Unfortunately, their cave didn't provide defense against malnutrition, fear, and a multitude of injuries they had sustained. It was times like these that she wondered if she was doing any of them a favor by keeping them alive.

What was it he always said? Oh I remember now, 'concentrate on the objective'.

"But what is the objective?" Jenny whispered, as she looked up to the night sky.

The objective is to live, Jen. To live. Now find the smaller objectives that will get you there, eliminating them one at a time, and always watch your six.

"That's easy for you to say, you're already dead," Jenny half smiled as she whispered to the sky.

'Oh Jesus, Jesus..." She gasped as she clasped her hand over her mouth. Get a grip, Jen, she thought. Get a grip, you're sitting here carrying on a conversation with a dead man. No, no, it's only because you can see the sky tonight and the fire fight that is going on up there. And the wind...The God awful wind. Jenny's mind rocked. I am not going crazy! This planet is real, these men are real, this weapon in my hand is real. His voice is only wishful thinking. Yes that's it, wishful thinking and the hellish wind.

The wind whistled and moaned across the rocks and around the outcropping that protected Jenny. She shivered again at the sound. She was a woman who had once gloried in the wind, as she sailed 'The Windswept' up and down the southern California coast. She could steal the slightest breeze from the sky, the sails would fill and off she would go, laughing into the wind. Jenny wondered if she would ever be that free again.

The planet seemed determined to take everything from them, but she wasn't giving up without a fight. She was giving all her strength to keep the men in her care alive until rescue came. The wind that started mid-afternoon and blew all night, every night, was slowly grinding away at their sanity. Maybe not so slowly, she thought.

At first, picturing herself on her boat, with the wheel under her hands, cutting through the waves toward Catalina Island, had been a defense against the wind. Lately, whenever, she called that picture to mind, she would feel strong masculine hands covering hers as he learned to feel the rhythm of the sea. Now she was hearing his voice. At least if I'm hearing from a dead man, he is giving me advice on how to keep us all alive, she thought pragmatically.

Don't go there, Jenny, she thought to herself. Looking down she realized she was gripping the small rope bracelet that hung from her dog tags. Making a conscious effort she freed her hand. Don't think about it.

After quickly checking on General Savage, Jenny curled back behind her rock. She was keeping him sedated, and so far so good. For the first time in weeks he wasn't spiking the high fevers that had kept him incoherent and thrashing for hours at a time. Tonight he was as he had been all day: sleeping.

Early that morning, she had sat in exactly the same position she was in now, contemplating what needed to be done.

Sunrise on Kordis that morning:

The blood red sun had slowly risen over the horizon, giving off a dull light that reflected the odd particles hanging in the mist that surrounded Kordis. The morning electrical storms had already started rolling down from the sky and bouncing off the ground, making the surrounding area shake. Charming planet, she had thought. Either the wind is trying to blow us off the surface or the lightening is trying to fry us to a crisp. Added to that, there is fog, rain, and the temperature never raises above 50 F. Why in the universe, either Earth or the Chigs, wanted this ball of rock, she couldn't imagine.

Jenny squared her shoulders for the task ahead. She had made up her mind what she had to do during the long night. All that was left was to discuss it with the man who's life it would change.

"General Savage," Jenny approached the commander of the 918th Air Force Wing. "We need to talk." She had been greatly relieved to see that his fever had broken in the early hours of the morning and that he was aware of his surroundings.

"I was wondering how much longer we could pretend," the older man lasered her with a fierce look, trying to hide his exhaustion and pain.

"Sir, that's gangrene in that arm and it'll only get worse. I have to take the arm off..." Fear tied Jenny's stomach in knots at what she was suggesting.

"What else, Lieutenant Commander," Frank Savage watched the slight blond woman in front of him.

"This is no place for that kind of operation. I can't give you any guarantee you'll survive it, but you will die if I don't do surgery. My instruments are sup-optimal, but I'll do my very best for you." Jenny bit her tongue until it bled, not telling her patient she would be trying to amputate his arm with a K-bar and the saw from the survival kit. She refused to consider the total lack of sterile conditions.

"Are you asking for my permission?" He watched her with hooded eyes. He hadn't liked her when she had been assigned as Chief Medical Officer of the airstrip on Kordis. Now he wished he had taken the time to find out if he could trust her.

"No Sir," Jen licked her lips. "In this situation, only God outranks me and since I get the feeling that he isn't bothering with this little corner of His universe, that leaves me. More importantly, I'm a doctor. I have to try to save your life, no matter what. It's just easier all the way around if I have your permission."

General Frank Savage, 6' 3", 200 lbs., leader of men, and ace fighter pilot watched Lieutenant Commander Jennifer Kirkwood, 5' 1", 98 lbs., leader of the In-vitro Rights Movement, and navel doctor. For a moment, he did one of the things he did best. He took measure of another human being, something he hadn't bothered to do with this woman. He had let her reputation as a trouble-maker regarding in-vitros and his own prejudices cloud his judgment.

"Well I'll be damned!" He smiled, "I've been wrong about you ever since you were first stationed on this rock. You have a strength that puts us all to shame and something more than that. I haven't figured out what it is, but given time I will." He reached for her hand and held it in his much larger one. "Do what needs to be done and give me that time."

"Yes sir," she began to turn, but he didn't let go of her hand.

"But, if I don't make it," his voice became stern as she tried to stop him. "Don't interrupt me Lieutenant Commander. My wings, see that they are given to Commodore Glen Ross of The Saratoga. Tell him to give them to my wife. My great-great-grandfather wore them in WWII. I want my grandson to have them."

Three hours later it was done. Jenny shook from lack of sleep and too much adrenaline from the intensity of the surgery. She thanked God that the last of her anesthesia had held out and that her corpsman, Sargent John Stark had been well enough to assist.

The General hadn't bled to death and Jenny had managed to save his shoulder and a bit of the upper arm. If she could prevent any further infection, he might live. If he would thank her for his life, remained to be seen. What does one do with a one armed General?

"Sgt. Stark, keep an eye on our patients for a moment, I need to wash up," Jenny pulled to her feet and headed to the small stream that was at the back of the cave. Her knees buckled as she rounded a small outcropping of rock.

"Lady-Doc, let me help you," Cpt. James Parks came up behind her.

"I'm all right, Captain." They both knew she was lying, but since she was the strongest member of this strange squad, they both pretended otherwise. "You shouldn't be up and around, you have a concussion."

"Tell me about it. Doc. I still can't figure out if I really have blurry vision, or if it is just the pain in my head that sends everything out of focus." He handed her a wet cloth to bathe her face and a flask. "Drink this. You'll feel better."

"Thanks," she smiled then coughed as the sharp whiskey burned its way to her stomach. "Can you break out the rations and help me get everyone fed?"

"Sure thing Ma'am. You take a minute for yourself. You did great by the Old Man. How long before we know if..well if.."

"I wish I could answer that, Captain. I'll be back in a minute."

As Parks went back to the others, Jenny reached for her dog tags, feeling the imprint of the gold rope chain attached to them. It was the only thing she had left of the past. It was her strength and her talisman. Please please give me the strength to see this through, she thought as she held on to the past. Help me to do this as you would have done it.

The meal was a subdued affair. Jenny did a quick evening roll call in her head. General Savage, sleeping off the effects of surgery, but still alive. Captain James Parks, concussed, but eating better tonight. Corpsman John Stark, leg tightly splinted due to a fracture of the femur and tibia. Private Marco Patti, holding his own with a previous abdominal wound, compounded by injuries sustained during the crash. Lt. Jefferson Davis, pilot. He had walked away from the crash with hardly a scratch, but five days ago had returned to camp from a supply raid, covered in blood, both his own and Chig. It had taken Jenny two hours to suture the deep knife wounds.

"Lady-Doc, how about a story," Stark gave Jenny his down home grin as he headed back to the guard post knowing that he would be able to hear the story from that spot.

"What did you have in mind, Sargent?" She asked, knowing full well what he wanted to hear about.

"We want to hear about your kick-ass Marine pilot," Patti answered as they all nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, we want to hear about The Major," Stark's voice drifted from the front of the cave.

"Have I ever told you the one about the pirates off the Rings of Saturn?" Jen asked. "All right, I'll start it tonight, but I don't know if I can get through all of it."

"The Major and his unit were doing temporary duty on a carrier. A group of pirates were making sneak attacks into the system and raiding mining colonies and shipping lanes, then making a run for the Rings of Saturn and losing themselves in the unstable atmospheric conditions created by that unusual planet....." Jenny's voice carried only as far as the cave walls, telling a story of brave Marines, hairy-furballs, and knife fights between Hammerheads and pirates.

"Way to go Marines," Patti sighed as Jenny stopped the story for the night. It appeared that the others had fallen asleep, but Jenny's words had kept Pvt. Patti entranced. "Semper Fi! Can you finish it? I want to know how they got the last hideout."

"Tomorrow. You need to get some sleep, Private, and I need to check on the General then take over for Stark at the cave entrance."

"I can stand guard tonight, Lady-Doc."

"Thanks for the offer, Marco, but I'd never sleep with the General in this condition, so I might as well watch out for company." She smiled as she moved to pull the blanket over Patti's shoulder. Her hands froze, tightening on the Private's blanket, as she heard a voice in her head, there will be plenty of time to rest when I'm dead.

Get out of my head and get your damn rest! Jen thought as she tried to focus on her next patient.


"Hhhmmm, yes..sorry..." She shook her head to clear it and concentrate on the pilot.

"Ma'am is he real?" Davis mumbled.


"The Major, is he real?" Lt. Davis' words were slurred. "Or did you just make him up to keep us entertained?"

"I thought you were asleep, Davis," Jenny avoided his question.

"The Major!" Davis was frantic. "Is he real?"

"Yes, he was." Jenny bit her lip to keep memories at bay.

"Is he really a kick-ass Marine like you say?"

"Yes, Jeff, he was, but he died in The Battle Of The Edge," Jenny's voice cracked. "His whole unit was wiped out by the Chigs," she closed her eyes and flashes of light lit up her lids as Hammerheads exploded and Angels fell from the sky.

"So many die. It would be so easy," Davis muttered as he was swamped with pain from knife wounds. His breathing became shallow and irregular.

"NOOOO," Jenny shouted as she grabbed him by the shirt. "You will not die! Do you understand me? Look at me, Jeff!" Still shaking him to get his attention. "If you die now, if you give up, just remember that the Major will be waiting for you on the other side. He was a Marine of the Old Corps, who gave everything. Can you say the same? Can you meet him over there and not have him kick your ass back to Chig country? Can you?"

That had been hours ago. The day had been one of the roughest since they crashed. As soon as I'm sure General Savage is out of the woods, I'll have Stark relieve me. I need some sleep or I'll never keep the memories locked away where they belong.

Yes, that was the answer, Jenny thought. I'm not going crazy. It's the lack of sleep and thinking about the past too much. Telling those stories to the men. She smiled to herself. The stories really did seem to help them. They loved hearing about Marine victories over AI's, pirates, and raiders. She thought He would like that. He was always such a private person, but if He knew that stories about Him kept other soldiers alive, maybe, He wouldn't mind too much.

"Lady-Doc," someone whispered from the group of sleeping men.

"Yes?" Jenny moved from her position. Surprised to find it was General Savage calling her. He never used the nick-name the other men had given her.

"Any chance of some water?" General Savage looked pale and weak, but he was coherent.

"Let me check you first, Sir." Jen turned on a small pocket light, being careful to keep her body between the cave entrance and the light.

In Space, Orbiting Kordis 1900 hours:

For weeks the combined forces of Earth had been fighting a huge battle for this sector of space. The 58th climbed out of their cockpits battle weary and hungry.

“Okay people, I know it’s been rough, but it’s going to get rougher if we’re to hold this corridor,” Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen called out to the group of Marine Corps Aviator Calvary under his command. “Get some chow, then hit the rack. Briefing at 0600 tomorrow. Vansen, with me, now.”

Shane groaned as she followed McQueen off the flight deck to a small office.

“You were Honcho today. How are they holding up?” McQueen asked as he handed her a cup of hot coffee.

“Thank you, Sir,” Lt. Vansen took the cup gratefully. “As well as can be expected under the circumstances. Everyone’s reaction time is down a little, but we’re keeping a close eye on each other to compensate.”

“It shouldn’t be too much longer, but it is imperative we secure this area.”

“What can I tell the 58th?” Shane looked up to her commander needing something to take back to the rest of the squad.

“Tell them..tell them what they’re doing is important and to get some sleep,” McQueen turned away. “Dismissed Lieutenant.”

“Yes, Sir,” Shane watched her commander for a moment before she left, coffee in hand, and headed back to the Wildcards' quarters.

Saratoga, Wildcards' Quarters 1930 hours:

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Hawkes bundled his damp towel and threw it across the room.

“We’re all tired, Coop.” Damphousse tried to defuse his temper.

“I’ve lost count of the missions we’ve flown in the last four weeks. All we do is fly and sleep, fly and sleep.”

“We’ve been killing Chigs too,” Paul grinned.

“When are we going to get some down time?” Cooper shouted.

“Just shut-up Hawkes!” Nathan had all he could take of the bigger Marine.

“Give it a rest you two.” Shane’s coffee mug slammed onto the table beside the hatch she had just closed. “I’ve had all the complaining I want to hear for one night. Hawkes, we’re Marines and that’s why we do it. If they say fly and sleep, then we fly and sleep. Got that?” She had stepped between Hawkes and West before a fight broke out.

“Did you get that?” She had the much bigger man backed up against a bulkhead as she shoved a finger into his chest, her eyes blazing.

“Geez, Shane, you don’t have to poke a hole in my chest,” Coop grabbed her finger, his anger completely gone. Shane Vansen was his weak spot. He was thankful no one else realized it. “Yeah I get it.”

“What did the Colonel have to say?” Damphousse asked.

“Just the usual. He wanted to know how we were holding up.” Shane moved to her locker and began pulling off her dirty flight suit.

“Did he say how much longer this was going to last?” Nathan wondered.

“No, but he did say it’s very important we hold this sector, so I guess it's back out tomorrow. God, I don’t know if I need food or sleep more.” Shane sighed.

“You go shower. I’ll bring you back a plate from the mess hall,” ‘Phousse offered as the rest of the 58th headed out for food.

Commodore Ross' Quarters, 1945 hours:

“Come,” Commodore Ross called as someone knocked on his hatch. “Ty, what can I do for you?” Ross smiled to see one of his oldest friends.

“Sir,” Col. T.C. McQueen stood at attention in front of Ross’ desk. “The Colonel doesn’t understand....”

“Cut the “sir” crap Ty, sit down and have a drink. You look like you could use one. I know I could. And stop pulling my chain. If you have a question, ask it. I’ll answer it if I can.” Glen Ross reached into the cabinet behind his desk pulling out scotch for McQueen and rum for himself.

“Glen, how much of what is going on can you tell me?” Worry for his squad was evident on his face, though Ross was positive his friend didn’t realize it.

Taking a slow sip of rum Ross leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment. Ty McQueen was worried about his Marines in a way his friend never would have believed. What Ross couldn’t figure out was why. Sure, the 58th were wonderful young people, but the Marines were full of wonderful young people.

The Angry Angels had been wonderful, but, in social situations, Ty had shunned them as much as they had him. As a fighting unit, the Angels had acted as one. They took care of each other, but that had never extended beyond the cockpit. Ty, the in-vitro, was on his own. Figuring out what was going on with McQueen could be an interesting diversion. Ross decided to file it away for future reference.

“Ty, do you know General Frank Savage?’

“Only by reputation. They say he’s a fine officer and an excellent pilot.” McQueen’s interest was piqued by the mention of the legendary Air Force General’s name.

“What I’m about to tell you is to go no further.” Glen sipped his rum as he decided how much he could say without putting them both in a compromising position.

“That goes without saying, Sir.”

“Three months ago, Savage’s 918th Wing Division built an air strip on Kordis. They were using the strip to launch recon flights into Chig held space. The planet has some strange weather conditions in the southern continent that helped mask their presence in the more hospitable north. Unfortunately, they were detected and heavy fighting took place. General Savage was injured before the evacuation of the airstrip. He was to go out with the rest of Sickbay, accompanied by their doctor and some corpsmen. Their ISSCV didn't make it off planet. We have been picking up their transponder for the last three plus weeks, but weather conditions prevent us from going after them.”

“What kind of weather conditions?”

“They went down in a mountainous area of the southern continent. There are high winds and massive electrical storms that generate ion storms in the lower atmosphere. If we try to launch a rescue mission in that soup, we’ll have another ISSCV stuck on that planet. Predictions have those storms clearing for a small window of time in about 72 hours.”

“Are we sure anyone is still alive, and that it’s not just a trap?” McQueen was calculating the odds and they didn't sound good.

“No and no, but we have to try. Frank Savage is one of my oldest friends, but, more than that, he is vital to the war effort for reasons I’m not at liberty to discuss. Besides, ten other people took off in that craft with him.”

“Eleven lives for how many, Glen?” McQueen got up to stare at the distant light that was Kordis. “How many have we lost so far and how many more will we trade for eleven people, who are probably dead anyway?”

“The information Savage has will save lives. That’s all I can say now. Get some sleep Ty, and stop worrying about the 58th. You’ve done a good job training them. They will do what needs to be done.”

“I do worry, don’t I?” McQueen gave a small smile, embarrassed that he had been caught with an emotion showing. “I can’t help it, I care about those kids.”

“I know you do.” Ross met his friend’s cool blue eyes with his warm brown ones. “The 58th are better Marines because of it.”

“Caring is hard. In-vitros don’t learn how to care, so when it happens we get caught by surprise.” Ty was looking deep into his scotch, trying to find answers to questions he wasn’t sure he knew.

Ross poured himself one more rum after McQueen left. Putting his feet up on his desk he contemplated him. McQueen had changed. The question was did the change happen because McQueen cared about the 58th, or did McQueen care about the 58th because he had changed?

“You’ve had too much to drink, old man, when you start to think like that,” Ross said to his guitar as he picked it up and began to strum. “Yea, right, McQueen change? When there are ice cubes in hell,” Ross hummed along as he plucked out “Georgia On My Mind.” His eyes closed, letting the blues carry him away, off his ship to a warm starry night and a woman’s warmer arms.

The Saratoga 60 hours later:

“Listen up people,” Lt. Col. McQueen addressed the three squads of Marines in the briefing room. “We’ve got a rescue and recovery mission today. The hospital evac carrier that went missing from Kordis was found on one of that planet’s southern continents. It’s been almost four weeks so it is anybody’s guess what we’ll find when we get down there.

“The 23rd and 67th will fly cover for the 5-8 to go on planet. The transponder fix is in your mission briefing log. It’s faint, but as of 0330, it was transmitting. There is heavy Chig and AI presence reported in all sectors of space so trust nothing. It is vital we find that ISSCV and bring back any survivors. If no survivors are found, any personal gear belonging to those who were stranded is to be brought back.

"Wildcards, we’ll be going in just before dawn. The weather is as much our enemy as Chigs and AI’s. We will be utilizing a break in the weather pattern to get on planet. But, there may be high winds and electrical storms on our way out, as the window closes, so we’ll have to watch our six. It could be a rough ride, but there are as many as eleven wounded Air Force and Naval personnel on planet. Any questions, people?” His cool blue eyes raked the group of young fighter pilots, gaging their strengths and weaknesses.

“All right then, 23rd and 67th meet on the hanger deck in 20 mikes, to converge with our ISSCV behind Kordis’ second moon at 0500.” Raising his wrist to look at his watch, he called out the time, “0410, ready, ready, hack.”

“Are you coming with us on this one, Colonel?” Lt. Shane Vansen asked. Since McQueen had been grounded due to an injury in the Battle Of The Edge, he took every chance he could to go along on ground missions, but Commodore Ross didn’t let him get away with it as often as McQueen would have liked.

“Is there a problem with that, Lieutenant?” McQueen’s eyes frosted as he stared the young woman down.

“No, SIR!” Shane shouted out, shoulders back, almost sitting at attention.

“Dismissed people.” The Marines hit the deck running.


Jenny tossed in her sleep, trying to throw off the nightmare. It was so intense she could even smell the Hammerhead fuel. She was watching the battle in slow motion, not from the deck of the Windswept, as she had watched it, but right there, standing in space. To her back were the planets that orbited the Sun. In front of her was the rest of the universe. Racing toward each other, just outside of the Sun’s system, were strange alien ships and a greatly outnumbered United Earth Force.

The Hammerheads with the stylized angel wings and halo stenciled on the cockpit were locked in furious battle with Chig aircraft. This time their superior flying skills weren’t enough. One by one the Angry Angels were blown from the sky, until there was only one plane fighting. In her dream she could see him. In her dream he was dead and still flying, still fighting, then his Hammerhead exploded in a great flash of light. Jenny was left alone with the stars and the faint smell of Hammerhead fuel as bodies drifted by.

“Lady-Doc, wake-up,” Stark was shaking her shoulder trying to wake her. “You’re having a nightmare again.”

“What..no..not again...Ty?” Jenny gasped as she looked into the concerned blue eyes of her Corpsman.

“Sorry, I..I,” Jenny leaned her head on her hand as she sat up trying to reorient herself. “That was a bad one, sorry about that.”

“We’ve all been having them. Anything you want to talk about?”

Jenny shook her head as she got to her feet. Looking at her watch she realized that she had had less than two hours of sleep since Cpt. Parks had taken over the watch.

Something was wrong. Jenny could feel it, but didn’t know what it was. “Listen, Stark...” Jenny’s first thoughts were for her patients, but a quick look assured her they were all doing better today.

“Ma’am?” Stark looked at Jenny as if she might still be dreaming.

“Listen, it's quiet out. No wind or lightening.” Jen headed for the mouth of the cave.

“Cpt. Parks,” she whispered. “When did it get so quiet?”

All three of them knelt behind the rocks at the entrance to the cave. Light was just showing over the horizon, but nothing moved, no wind, no lightening, nothing.

“It's been like that for about an hour. After all the noise, it’s kind of spooky,” Parks shook his head. “Look at that, Ma’am!” He shouted as he pointed to four Hammerheads coming in low and fast over their position.

“Thank God,” Jenny whispered.

The radio they had stripped from the downed ISSCV crackled to life as the scream of Hammerheads circled around again. In the distance they could make out a larger craft coming in for a landing.

“918th Medical Unit, come in please.” A young woman’s voice filled the cave. “This is Lt. Damphousse, are you ready for extraction?”

“Lt. Damphousse,” Jenny gripped the radio transmitter as her voice cracked. “This is Dr...er..Lt. Com. Kirkwood. I have three wounded patients and two that can walk out, if it isn’t too far.”

“Commander, any sign of enemy activity? Damphousse, over.”

“No, Lieutenant, not in the last ten days. But they bombed this area, on and off, for two days after they found the ISSCV. Your presence may bring them back if they are anywhere in the neighborhood.”

“We’ll be on planet in three mikes and will follow your transmission signal. Damphousse, out.”

Jenny divided the last of her supply of synthaphine (synthesized morphine, with all of its benefits, but no addictive properties) between Davis and Savage for the trip out, then checked on Patti.

“Damn, the Chigs are back,” Stark called from the front of the cave.

“How many?” Jenny kept getting the injured men ready for transport.

“The Hammerheads are engaging them in the sky. And our transport has landed,” Stark cheered.

“Parks, Stark, here you go,” Jenny passed out the last of the ammunition, and held her weapon at ready. “Lets give that evac team any cover we can.”

McQueen checked the sighting on the aft gun as he barked orders to the 58th. “Vansen, you’re Honcho, take them up that hill and get those wounded out, the weather is beginning to change and we have company coming. I’ll keep the motor running.”

“Yes Sir,” the young woman called as she and her team hit the rocks running.

The ground shook from the battle that was going on a few hundred feet over their heads and lightening was starting to roll in. The Wildcards were met at the mouth of the cave by three weary people, armed and ready to shoot.

“Com. Kirkwood?” Shane called out.

“I prefer Doctor, Lieutenant, and you have no idea how glad we are to see you,”

“Let's get you guys out of here, before Chiggy pays us a visit.” A tall shaggy haired young Marine walked to the back of the cave.

“Cpt Parks if you can make it down on your own, I can help Sgt. Stark,” Jenny stated rather than asked. “Can you people get the General, Pvt. Patti and Lt. Davis?”

“We sure can Ma’am.” Wang moved to Patti and lifted him over his shoulder, as Cooper was doing the same for the General, and West for Davis.

“Cpt. Parks, you and I will provide cover,” Shane called out as they headed out of the cave, not more than thirty seconds after entering it.

It was a rough trip down the hill for all the wounded. Jenny and Stark were bringing up the rear. As each of her patients were loaded onto the ISSCV, Jenny gave a sigh of relief. She and Stark were ten feet from the craft when the ground shook behind her and the sky lit up from a bolt of lightening. The big Marine jumped out of the craft and grabbed Stark.

McQueen was in the door of the ISSCV, leaning down reaching out for the last of the evacuated personnel. “Hurry! We’ve got to get out of here,” he called out.

Jenny looked up at the sound of McQueen’s voice. She froze as she saw the man who knelt in the door. His helmet strapped securely beneath his chin, wearing a black flight suit, his arm extended, his hand held out to her. “*Oh God, visual AND auditory hallucinations*” Jenny blinked and tried to clear her vision.

“Ty?..It can’t be?..” A bomb hit the cliff where they had been hiding. Jenny felt a whoosh of air as the cliff exploded and the ground came up to meet her. The compression from the blast sent her into comforting blackness, where she didn’t have to deal with ideas that didn’t compute.

“Noooo,” McQueen whispered as he jumped out of the craft. “No, it can’t be.” Moving her hair aside, he saw the burn scar on the back of her neck. That still had the power to make him tremble with rage. As he turned her over to pick her up, her dog tags spilled out and his eyes caught the glint of a familiar gold chain hanging between the tags. “Oh, Jen, what are you doing out here?” He muttered as he carried her to safety.

She was flying. It felt so wonderful to just lay there and fly. But, oh God, her head hurt and she was so cold. She wanted to open her eyes but it seemed like too much trouble. Then she remembered the lightening and the bombs as they were leaving the planet. Had she seen Ty? Yes, that made sense, to see Ty and to be flying. He lived to fly..but..but..?

“Noooo....,”she moaned as she fought to open her eyes and get back to reality. “I’m seeing things as well as hearing them,” she whispered.

“Easy there Jen, you hit that hard head of yours,” McQueen wiped blood off of Jenny’s forehead with a damp cloth.

“Ohhhh,” her eyes flew open as the cloth touched a deep cut. She grabbed his wrist to pull his hand away from her face. Leaning her nose into his sleeve she inhaled deeply the scents that were Tyrus Cassius McQueen: sandalwood aftershave, warm man, and a trace of Hammerhead fuel. It had amazed her, when they had first met, when he was in detox and had been grounded for weeks, that there was always that slight scent of Hammerhead fuel that was so much a part of him.

“Is it really you?” She looked at the blood reddened cloth that he held, “but I didn’t think people bled after they died?” Her brain still trying to make sense out of all that was happening to her.

“Oh God,” she looked around frantically. “Did my men die too, or was it just me?”

“Back up, Jen,” Ty gripped her shoulders, beginning to worry that she had taken a harder hit to the head than it appeared. “What makes you think you’re dead?”

“Because you’re here,” her eyes filled with tears for the first time in months and she hated the fact that Ty was seeing her cry. “And if I’m not dead then I’m crazy.”

“Easy Jen, you’re not crazy or dead,” his voice ground to a whisper as her hand moved over his cheek.

“You don’t feel dead, but, they said...” Jenny fought the blackness that was exploding behind her eyes. “They said all the Angels died and I got..I got..a telegram...”

McQueen gently wiped the blood from the unconscious woman’s face. She looked like hell. She had lost weight she could ill afford to lose. She was confused and in pain, but of greatest concern was the haunted look in her eyes.

“Colonel,” a slim dark lieutenant called from the bunk above. “Is the Lady-Doc going to be all right?”

“I can’t answer that for sure, Lieutenant. My guess is that she will be, after some rest and care. She took a good thump to the head, though.”

“She saved my life, she and the Major......."

“Major?” Was there someone else down there with you guys?” Wang was horrified that they might have left someone behind. “We only saw the six of you.”

“No, Sir,” Sgt. Stark pulled himself to the edge of his bunk to look back at Wang and McQueen. “The Major wasn’t there, not in the flesh. But his spirit was there, in the stories The Lady would tell us at night. And well, I think, somehow, he was the one who kept her going.”

“A few nights ago, I almost gave up and died,” Davis looked up groggily at McQueen. “The Lady got real mad at me. She told me The Major would be waiting on the other side and if he found me wanting, he would kick my ass back to Chig country.” Davis grinned for the first time in weeks. “I was more afraid of what he would do to me for running out on his Lady, than I was of any Chig. No way I was going to die and have to explain that to The Major.

“You can’t fool me, Davis,” Stark kidded his friend. “You just wanted to find out how The Major found that last pirate stronghold beyond Saturn.”

McQueen had moved down the row of bunks to where General Savage was sleeping. He heard the men talking and realized that Jen had been telling stories of the Angry Angels to keep her men entertained. And he had a sick feeling he knew who The Major was. He was just thankful that she hadn’t used any names.

Saratoga landing bay, a few hours later:

Within five minutes of landing, medics had stripped the ISSCV of it’s six patients. Stretchers arrived, people called out and all that was left was the echo of running feet.

“Good work everybody. 5-8, you’ve got the next 24 off,” Ross called from the deck of the landing bay.

“Yes Sir,” the young Marines answered as they shut down the craft and gathered their gear.

“That order is for you too, McQueen,” Ross said to his friend as they walked toward the elevator.

“But Sir,...” McQueen protested.

"No buts Ty, take some time off, get drunk, play some poker, watch some of those movies only you think are funny. Bottom line, get some rest.” Ross headed off toward Sickbay, leaving McQueen with the last thing he wanted right now: time to think.

McQueen made it through a shower and a dinner that he hardly tasted. He tried going to the Tun for poker, but wasn’t interested in the hands he was dealt. The last straw came when a loud-mouthed doctor joined the game and began telling stories about the “Lady-Doc” who was sleeping in sickbay.

“When we got her cleaned up. She turned out to be a real looker. You guys know who she is, don’t you? I wouldn’t mind being marooned on a planet with her for a few weeks. Maybe teach her what a real man is like, if you know what I mean?” The doctor winked at Hawkes and Wang.

“Are you going to play or talk?” Coop growled, not understanding the last reference to Kirkwood, but not liking it on general principles.

“Any reason a man can’t do both?” The Doctor grinned. He was new to the Saratoga and didn’t realize that McQueen and Hawkes were in-vitros.

“Yeah, maybe there is,” West muttered. “*This guy was digging himself a deep hole or he was plain stupid. *”

“Come on guys, she’s just a skirt, and one with an unsavory reputation to begin with. The kind of men she hangs out with? Well it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. LADY-Doc my foot,” Voss laughed until he realized the only sound at the table was McQueen tossing his cards onto the pile of chips.

“Lieutenant,” McQueen’s voice was quiet and deadly. “Lt. Com. Kirkwood is your superior officer, as such you owe her respect. Have you served in a field hospital, as yet?”

At that moment Voss knew what it was like to look into the eyes of a Marine who gave no quarter. “A..a..a.. no Sir.”

“Maybe, when you do, you will remember Dr. Kirkwood with a bit more respect. Until such time, as an officer and a---gentleman?” McQueen left no doubt that he thought Voss wasn't a gentleman. “You owe her an apology due her rank.”

"But...?" Voss was shocked at the unexpected hostility from the table of Marines.

"Be very careful what you say next, Lieutenant. You are bordering on insubordination." McQueen fought to keep his anger from boiling over. The satisfaction he would gain from planting his fist in Voss' face wasn't worth the possibility that it would bring more attention to Jenny.

“The Lieutenant wishes to apologize for everything he said regarding Dr. Kirkwood. He meant no disrespect to the Commander.” Voss was looking straight ahead in his seat. He would have saluted if he was wearing a cover.

“By the way, Lieutenant, you owe two other apologies, before you LEAVE.” West cut in, ignoring McQueen’s frown. “The Colonel and Lt. Hawkes are in-vitros. They may choose to overlook the slur you have cast upon them, but we don’t.”

“You got that right!” Wang agreed. Squad pride was at stake here.

Voss visibly paled. He had heard about Jennifer Kirkwood and the In-vitro Rights Movement for a long time. He didn’t realize how strong a bond that was, nor that natural-borns were backing it up to this extent, especially, after the assassination of Chartwell by an in-vitro. Added to that he had just insulted a Marine Colonel.

“Colonel and Lieutenant, I meant no disrespect to either of you.” Voss knew when to cut his losses. “Please accept my apology.”

“Dismissed, Lieutenant.” McQueen drank what was left of his beer and turned to West. “You should have left that alone. That sort of thing is just asking for trouble."

“No, Sir!” Nathan replied. “The Colonel may choose to ignore an insult to the Colonel and Lieutenant Hawkes, but this Lieutenant does not. Nor will the 58th, Sir.”

“What? What did he say?’’ Cooper was exasperated. He realized that somehow Voss had insulted in-vitros and Dr. Kirkwood at the same time and that he had missed it.

"Then the 58th better grow up," McQueen spat back.

“What about Dr. Kirkwood, Sir,” West argued. “Think about the insult to her?”

“I was thinking about her, West.” McQueen stood. “That’s why I left it alone. I’m out of the game.” He moved quickly through the swinging doors of the Tun, never looking back.

“What was that all about?” Shane watched her commanding officer's exit as she and Damphousse took the chairs vacated by McQueen and Voss. She had heard just enough at the end to be curious.

“Damned if I know.” Cooper picked up the cards and began to shuffle them. “One of you guys better explain it to me!”

“I thought McQueen was going to take a swing at that guy.” Wang shook his head. “It was a close call.”

“Strangest thing I ever saw. Voss made an off color remark about Com. Kirkwood and McQueen blew. Then when Voss insulted in-vitros, he just sat there. Never even demanded an apology.” West was looking toward the door McQueen had just exited, a speculative look in his eyes.

“You talking about our McQueen?” ‘Phousse was more interested in what the men were telling her than playing cards. “He’s a stickler for protocol, I can’t believe he wasn't insulted. He usually has those guys saying so many 'Colonel, Sirs,' their tongues are tied in a knot.”

“Not this time. You know how he gets all tight and kind of frozen looking?” Wang shook his head remembering. “This time he looked as if he had a volcano ready to erupt under all that ice.”

“I still don’t understand what happened.” Hawkes realized he had been insulted, but had missed it.

“If we’re going to talk about this, let's take it somewhere private,” West looked around, the Tun was getting busy.

The Wildcards moved as a group for the door, to head back to their quarters. West didn’t want to have this conversation in public in case Hawkes lost his temper. He knew that no matter how angry Cooper got, Shane would be able to keep him under control. And it was best done in private.

Wildcards' Quarters:

“You guys know who Jennifer Kirkwood is?” West asked as he reached into the envelope along his bunk that held his personal things.

“I know I’ve heard the name before, but I can’t place it,” Wang replied.

“I do, but didn’t realize it until just now,” ‘Phousse smiled.

“She wrote this.” West read the title of the slim book as he handed it to Hawkes. “THE IN-VITRO CHRONICLES by Jennifer Kirkwood, M.D.”

“Why would anybody want to write a whole book on in-vitros?” Hawkes was mystified.

“Kirkwood’s book was a major contribution to the In-Vitro Rights Movement.” ‘Phousse smiled at Coop. “Her book lit a fire under people and politicians that helped change laws regarding treatment and care of in-vitros. Many people credit Dr. Kirkwood and her book as the driving force that did away with forced servitude.”

“She did all that?” Hawkes was impressed. “But why was McQueen mad then?”

“Voss made a comment about Dr. Kirkwood’s reputation,” West was feeling out of his depth and turned to Shane for help.

“Hawkes,” Shane sat on Coop’s bunk with him, carefully picking her words. “Voss was implying that Dr. Kirkwood had had sex with in-vitros.”


“Remember when he said he wanted to show her what a real man was like?” West could see the transformation from confusion to anger, as Coop remembered all of what Voss had said.

“Shit,” Cooper shouted. “We should have pounded him into the floor!” Coop wanted to get up and hit something, but Shane had a grip on his arm and wasn’t letting him move.

“Cooper,” Damphousse, moved to his other side. “There are always going to be ignorant people like that. We just have to learn to rise above it. I think that was what McQueen was trying to do.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Hawkes challenged the young black woman.

“One hundred years ago, blacks were fighting the fight that in-vitros are fighting today,” Damphousse reminded him. “It takes brave people like this,” she held up Kirkwood’s book. “And brave people like you and McQueen to make a difference.”

After McQueen left the Tun, he wandered the corridors of the Saratoga, unconsciously ending up outside sickbay.

“Commander,” he walked up to the nurse at the duty station. “I led the SAR team that took the 918th medical group off planet, I was wondering how they’re doing?”

“They’re all doing much better, Colonel. I’m not at liberty to discuss particulars without their permission.” Commander Joan Brill had been around for a long time and was not about to let any hot-shot Lt. Colonel invade the privacy of her patients.

“The Lieutenant Commander? Is she going to be all right?” Ty could push with the best of them when there was something he really wanted to know.

Commander Brill made a quick decision. She had heard about McQueen for years, and had stitched him up on more than one occasion. The in-vitro was as tough as they came. The only times she had seen him in sickbay, when he wasn’t bleeding all over her floor, were when one of the Wildcards was down here with an injury. She was intrigued that he would show up here, no blood in sight, at 2100 hours, asking about a woman who he had helped pull off a planet earlier in the day.

“Dr. Kirkwood is in bay five, if you would like to check on her yourself.” Com. Brill tried to look uninterested as she took her seat at the nurses’ station, but McQueen could feel her eyes burning a hole in his back as he headed for the small room at the end of the hall.

There was just enough light over Jenny’s bed for McQueen to be able to see the sleeping woman. There were dark circles under her eyes and a bruise on her right cheek. A white bandage covered stitches on her left temple where she had been hit when the wall exploded behind her. Walking to the bed, he looked down at the woman who had saved his life and his soul three years earlier.

She moaned in her sleep and turned on her side, her hand reaching for a blanket that had slipped from her shoulders.

“Jen, you’re safe now,” Ty whispered. As he reached for the blanket and pulled it close around her, his fingers brushed the back of her hair and neck. “What the hell are you doing out here?”

“No, look out,” the sleeping woman whimpered fighting some unseen demon.

“Easy does it, Jen,” McQueen whispered. “I won’t let anybody hurt you,” he promised as he pulled up a chair to guard her as she slept. He owed her that, for all the nights she had guarded his sleep when he had been too out of it from drugs to guard himself. He hated to think about that time in his life, but tonight, he would honor her and remember it all.

The In-Vitro Health Facility L.A. Calif. three years earlier:

It had been over three years ago that Maj. T.C. McQueen had made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He let himself be seduced back to the world of phyllophetamines, or Green Meanies as they were called on the street. The first time he had gotten hooked on the drug, that is so addictive for in-vitros, hadn’t been his fault. Some brass plated idiot of a doctor had prescribed it for him as pain control while recovering from injuries received as a POW during the Artificial Intelligence War.

But, three and a half years ago had been all McQueen. Amy divorcing him had been the last straw that sent him over the edge looking for an escape. Unfortunately, instead of going on a weekend drunk as he had planned, he had run into a guy selling Greens and the next few weeks of his life were spent in a total blur.

After going through detox once before, McQueen knew the nightmare that faced him the second time around and it had been one of the hardest things he had ever done. But he knew he had to get his life back together. The euphoria the Greens provided was being followed by longer and longer periods of intense loneliness mixed with irrationality and streaks of violence. He had to lick it this time for good or he might as well put a bullet in his head,

The detox clinic had been hell until one night, as he fought unseen enemies in his sleep, a woman’s voice penetrated his fogged brain. He could hear The Voice on the edge of his dreams. He knew if he held onto that Voice, it would guide him to safety. There was something else cutting through the fog as he tossed on his bunk. Something that went with The Voice. McQueen smelled a scent that he came to associate with The Voice, but he couldn’t place it. It reminded him of warm sunny days and a garden.

Oh the third morning of his detox, after fighting AI’s all night, all that kept him sane was The Voice telling him he was safe and the scent of roses. “*Soft voice and the scent of roses, meant safety,*” was his last thought after a long restless night. He slept a deep dreamless sleep for the first time in weeks, but it was to be his last sleep for days to come.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Lt. Jennifer Kirkwood’s evening rounds had been delayed due to an emergency. She arrived at the detox ward to find the patient in room seven in four-point restraint and shouting his head off. “Ma’am we’re preventing the Major from hurting himself,” the burly Sargent responded as he looked in the glass/wire window of the padded room where McQueen was still struggling.

“Didn’t you bother to read this man’s chart, Corpsman? He was an AI prisoner of war. You can’t restrain him like that, it’ll drive him out of his mind. Unlock the door,” Jenny ordered. “Between the restraints and the drugs, he thinks he’s back being tortured by AI’s.”

Jenny was disgusted with Sgt. Gains for taking the easy way out and strapping her patient down. He knew the clinic rules: no restraints except in a life threatening emergency. She just hoped that all the hours she had spent trying to gain this man’s trust, hadn’t just gone down the tubes due to Gain’s laziness. She doubted if her patient would recognize her, so she may be back to square one.

“But Ma’am....” Sgt. Gains began to key in the door code, while trying to talk the woman out of her decision.

“I said unlock the door, Sargent. What part of that order didn’t you understand?” The top of Jenny’s head didn’t come as high as the Corpsman’s shoulder, but, when she used that tone of voice, she frightened him.

“He’ll tear us apart and himself as well, if we undo those straps,” Gains unlocked the door, but didn’t want to enter the room.

“Well, then we just won’t let him, will we?” Jenny marched into the room with Gains behind her. “Give me a hand getting these things off him.”

As soon as the restraints were removed, McQueen sprang to his feet, ready to fight. He couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. His vision was blurred and he wanted to feel the satisfaction of his fists connecting with automated skin and breaking a few motherboards to relieve the roaring in his head. They were trying to trick him again, he thought. These two didn’t look like AI’s, but he knew better. He lunged for the large man, but fell as his legs gave out.

“Get out of here, Sargent!” Jenny called as she knelt by the fallen man.

“But Doc?”

“I said out! Now! And lock the door,” Jenny ordered. “I’ve got a hypospray of ketamine handy, so keep an eye on us. If I have to use it, I’ll need to intubate him fast!”

“Major, let me help you.” Jen touched her patient’s shoulder.

“No!” McQueen squinted. “*What tricks were the AI’s trying to pull now?*”

“Easy does it, Major. I’m not going to hurt you.” Jenny kept her voice soft and even as she moved away giving the man plenty of room. “Why don’t you get up. It's cold down there.”

“McQueen, Tyrius Cassius, Major, 821-36-97440.” McQueen kept repeating his name, rank and serial number as he got to his feet and pulled away from this new enemy.

“AHHHH!” He cried out as his muscles contracted in massive cramps that had been building up in intensity for the last few hours.

“Let me help you.” The soft voice of the woman invaded his brain. Her arms around his waist, she took his weight and they limped to the bunk in the corner of the room.

“Let go of me,” he gasped, trying to free himself from her. “Just don’t tie me down anymore.”

“Easy Major, I’m not going to let anyone tie you down.” Jenny was horrified at the marks on his wrists where he and fought the straps.

“Take deep easy breaths and don’t fight the spasms.” Rubbing her hand along his shoulder, as he curled on his side, she could feel the muscles move beneath his skin as they tightened.

“I can’t give you anything for the cramping. It would only make it worse in the long run,” she whispered as his body was racked with pain.

McQueen gasped as sweat dampened his t-shirt. He fought to gain control, but minutes felt like hours to him. He wanted to hit out, to fight, but every time he moved, his muscles cramped and his bones were pulled almost out of their sockets. Outside of the pain he heard The Voice again, soothing him, telling him of sunny days with blue oceans and starry nights. The Voice spoke about flying free, but most of all it was telling him he was safe.

“There you go, Major, the spasm seems to be lessening.” The Voice was just outside of his vision. It sounded familiar somehow. He wanted so badly to trust The Voice. He was so tired. The Voice was right: his muscles were relaxing. Maybe he could trust it after all. Or was it just another AI trick?

“Take deep easy breaths, there you go, that’s much better,” Jenny could feel him relax beneath her hands. If she could keep him still, hopefully, the spasms wouldn’t be too bad. From her research in phyllophetamine addiction, she knew that the next few hours were going to be the worst for him.

McQueen felt his body relax completely. His mind was in a whirl. They had him again. Those damn AI’s had him again. But this time he had fooled them. They left him untied. Looking over his shoulder at the AI that was left to guard him, he saw that she was small. Her hand looked fragile on his arm. One move and he could snap her circuits in half and be out of here. “*Don’t move yet, Ty,*” he thought. “*Not quite yet, that stupid AI trusts you. Just a few more breaths and you'll be able to gather the strength to take her out*” He watched her over his shoulder as she sat on the side of his bunk, her hand relaxed and rubbing his back.

“WHO-YAH!” McQueen screamed his battle cry as he turned leaping to his feet, grabbing the little AI by the shoulders and slamming her against the wall.

“Don’t unlock that door!” Jenny gasped as she was bounced against the wall. The hypospray, holding the ketamine, falling out of her pocket and rolling under his bunk.

“Who are you?” McQueen’s eyes bore into hers. She didn’t feel like an AI. She felt human. And her eyes....they looked like a woman's eyes. In his confusion he gripped her tighter, holding on until his mind cleared.

“Major, I’m your doctor, you’re in phyllophetamine detox,” her voice was soft and gentle. “Please, you’re hurting me.”

“No,” he shook his head in denial his face inches from hers. “No, that was years ago. I kicked the damn Greens years ago!”

“Major McQueen, you’re hurting my arms.” Jen pushed gently against his chest. She knew she was going to have finger shaped bruises where his hands were digging into her and resigned herself to a few weeks of long sleeves. “Please, Major, we need to get you laying down before we both fall down.”

“No, it's a trick,” he whispered.

“You’re going to be all right.” Jen wasn’t afraid, but she knew she should have been. The average Marine knew over 200 ways to kill with his bare hands. It was rumored that in-vitro’s were taught hundreds more. Added to that was his superior height and strength potentiated by the phyllophetamine madness.

“Look at me. Major. Really look at me,” Jenny looked him in the eyes and saw the beginning of doubt. “I’m not an AI. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Who are you?” McQueen shook his head trying to clear his vision. A memory buried deep was trying to surface. “I know your voice....but it's more than that...” He leaned his head against her neck and inhaled. “Tea roses? I remember smelling tea roses and hearing a soft voice and I was safe.”

Jenny could feel the shaking in McQueen’s arms and knew that another muscle spasm was starting. “Please Major, let me help you.”

“Help? Don’t let them hurt me again...” McQueen fought the pain that was moving up his body. He still held the woman, but this time not to harm her, but to protect himself.

“Please lay down. We can get through this together.” Jen grabbed the man around the waist as he shook from spasms. Together they stumbled to the bunk and she got him back where he belonged.

“Don’t leave,” he whispered pulling her hand to him. “As long as I can smell the tea roses, I know I’ll be safe.”

It was a long night for both of them, but Jenny stayed by his side helping him fight his demons. When the spasms shook him and he couldn’t fight them, she fought them for him. They had other long nights in detox, but that night was the turning point for Tyrus Cassius McQueen.

The Saratoga October 2063, Sickbay:

“I can’t stop the bleeding,” Jenny whimpered as she tossed and turned, bringing McQueen back to the present.

“Easy Jen.” Ty fingered the short curls that surround her face. He was intrigued as he played with the springy blonde hair that showed slight red glints. “You’re safe. Go back to sleep.”

Her eyes tried to open as she smiled. “It's so nice to dream about you and not see ships exploding.” Then her eyes closed and she slept.

McQueen folded his arms on her bed and put his head down as he fought exhaustion. It had been a long, rough day and he had been fighting to keep a door locked tightly on memories that were better left buried. But he owed a debt to the woman whose soft breathing was playing hell with his composure. Maybe if he paid that debt in full, the door would be easier to keep locked.

The In-Vitro Health Facility L.A. Calif. three years earlier:

McQueen didn’t know how many nights Dr. Kirkwood spent in the padded room sitting beside him. He had lost track of time somewhere along the line. He remembered bits and pieces of what had happened, but was never sure what was drug-induced nightmare and what was real. All he knew was that when she was there, he felt safe, at a time when his world was out of control. It was a new experience to let someone else take care of him and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

One evening, not long after McQueen had been moved from the detox room to a regular hospital room, Jenny arrived later than usual. Knocking on his open door, she didn’t see him at first. The pool of light from his reading lamp showed a bed with unwrinkled sheets, so tidy you could bounce a quarter on them, and a book sitting open. Everywhere else there were only shadows.

“Major McQueen?” She called out softly, her breath catching as he turned quietly from the window in the corner. His dark navy blue sweat suit caused him to blend with the shadows and the night.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He watched her as she pulled off a flower print scrub hat and tucked the piece of colorful cotton in the waist of light blue surgical scrubs. Hair, usually kept neatly under control with clips and hair pins, fell to her shoulders in waves.

“How are you feeling tonight?” She asked as she consulted her palm computer for the latest test results on her patient.

“Better.” his eyes traveled over her disheveled appearance and the tired droop of her shoulders. “Since when do they let shrinks perform surgery?”

“They don’t.” Jen smiled up at him as she twisted her hair on top of her head and wove a pencil through the thick bun to keep it in place.

“According to your latest blood tests.....” Jenny pulled a chair over to the light by McQueen’s bed and sat down as she moved through the screens looking for his records.

“So why the surgical get-up?” He leaned against the foot of his bed watching her, not trusting this new side to his doctor.

She looked up at him, slipped out of her clogs, and put her sock feet up on the edge of his bed. “The five of us who run The In-vitro Health Facility have to wear many hats.” She grinned as she lifted the end of the scrub hat she had just taken off. “I’m a surgeon by speciality, but due to the fact that the phyllophetamine family of drugs is an anesthetic and analgesic, they fall under my providence. You already had your first session with Jamison Werner, our group psychiatrist, this morning.”

“So you’re the one I have to thank for that,” McQueen grunted.

“It’s all part of the hospitality.” She shrugged and smiled.

“By the way, just make yourself right at home.” McQueen thought she looked about sixteen years old in the slim-fitting scrubs. He was sure she had no idea that soft curls framed her face instead of staying put in the lop-sided bun she had so determinedly pulled her hair into moments ago.

“I think I will. It's been a long day,” Jen leaned her chair onto its back legs as she returned her attention to the small computer. She sighed quietly as the muscles in the back of her legs began to stretch out after standing for almost nine hours.

McQueen did a double-take. This was not the woman he had been watching for almost ten days. Her posture was so out of character that it was like watching a stranger. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, until he looked into her eyes and realized she was putting on an act.

“The surgery didn’t go well did it, Lieutenant?” McQueen’s quiet voice caught Jen off guard. Her mask slipped long enough for him to see deep pain and loss. He marveled as she battled to regain her professional calm.

“I’ve told you before, I prefer to be called Doctor...” For a moment she thought she could keep up the deception, but exhaustion won out and the front legs of Jenny’s chair hit the floor, followed by her feet. “Well, your powers of perception are greatly improved. What gave me away?”

“You don’t strike me as the kind of woman who would put her feet up on a strange man’s bed,” McQueen grinned. “The bravado was a good touch, but as I said, you’re not the type.”

“Hmm I’ll have to keep that in mind.” She slid into her clogs and stood, feeling secure in doctor mode. “Your latest blood tests are within normal limits, but I’d like to make sure your electrolytes stay that way.”

“You’re not going to tell me about it, are you Doctor?” McQueen had heard the unusual activity and running feet in the early morning, but had missed the significance.

“I can’t, Major, but thank you for asking.” Jen smiled sadly.

“Will you be all right?” It was disconcerting to see the woman who had been so strong for him looking fragile.

“Nothing a few hours sleep in the call room won’t take care of.” She smiled and changed back to her old self before his eyes. “Okay, McQueen, you know the drill. Stand straight, close your eyes, and touch your nose with the first finger of your right hand then the left. Repeat it five times.....Very good. Now walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other, toe to heel......Very good. Okay, up here,” she patted his bed.

Jen stood three feet in front of her patient. “Look at my finger,” she said as she touched her nose. “Without moving your head, follow my finger.” She moved her hand to the right, then the left as his eyes tracked perfectly. “Much better!”

“If you don’t make it as a surgeon, the Marines can use you as a drill sargent.” McQueen’s eyes followed her fingers as they went through the quick neuro exam.

“From you, that’s high praise,” she chuckled as she stepped to his left side with a pencil-sized flashlight in her hand. “Close your right eye.” Leaning in Jenny looked deep into his left eye. “Now the other side please.”

The first time Jenny had done this kind of test on him he wondered if she was playing games with his head. Some natural-born women got a kick out of teasing male Tanks. But as he had said earlier, she wasn’t the type. She was always cool, professional and kind.

Tonight there was something different. He didn’t know if it was caused by the tickle of her hair on his cheek mixed with her soft rose scent so close to his nose. Maybe it was her wrist watch, safety-pinned to her pocket before scrubbing for surgery, now forgotten as it swayed over her left breast. Or was it the vulnerability he had seen in her eyes earlier? She was breaking his concentration and it only served to add to his restlessness.

“You’re doing much.... better Major,” Jen made quick notations on her computer as she talked.

“I hear a ‘but’ in your voice, Doctor.” McQueen had moved back to the window, to watch the stars.

“As I said before you’re very perceptive.” Jen followed him, her arms crossed. “You’re moody and restless, beyond the norm for this point in detox, especially given the state of your blood tests.”

“You would be too if you were trapped in a place like this,” McQueen snapped at her. “I’m crowded in, I need...I need...,” as his anger and frustration grew, his voice lowered, until he was almost whispering.

“McQueen, talk to me! We can do this the hard way or the easy. It's up to you,” Jen shot back, her temper frayed from too many hours of fighting to stem the flow of blood and losing.

“Talk to you?” His cold sarcasm reduced her abilities to nothing. “I thought that was what Werner was for?” For a moment she rocked back at the attack in his voice.

“Very good Major! I bet that tone of voice keeps ‘em in line,” she grinned at him.

“I see you’re shaking in your a..a..” McQueen was at a loss for the strange foot gear she was wearing and fighting a smile, “...a shoes.”

“They’re clogs,” she giggled. The Doctor doubted many people giggled at Major McQueen and remained standing. “Shall we try again? What is it you need?”

“I need the stars,” he whispered, not sure she would understand him. “I’m getting cabin fever.”

“It’s like this, McQueen. I can’t discharge you in your condition, and even if I could, there is no way you would be certified to fly, and that's the whole point, isn’t it?” She touched his arm to make sure he was listening to her. “I get the feeling you need to fly like others need to breath.”

“Do you think I’ll be able to fly again?” McQueen whispered, amazed that this woman could understand him so well.

“Yes I do, but it’ll take work. You need to get healthy and prove to me that you’ve kicked the Greens forever, then, if necessary, I’ll pull every string I have to get you back in the sky.” Jenny stepped back, realizing that she had been invading his personal space for too long. “As for your immediate problem? I have an idea about that. I’ll get back to you about it first thing in the morning. Try and get some sleep.”

As she left, she turned back for one last check on her patient. He was still lost in thought, his eyes pinned to the stars.

The Saratoga Sickbay 2063

Jenny woke slowly to a pounding head and the even breathing of a man she thought she would never see again.

“Ty?” She whispered as she watched him sleeping. Still confused by all that had happened, but never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she reached out and ran her fingers over the silver hair that was so close under her hand.

Her wrist was grabbed in an iron grip as he moved instantly from sleep to wakefulness.

“Your reflexes are as good as ever, I see,” Jen smiled at Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen, as his fingers loosened.

“Jen, what the hell happened?” He whispered.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” her voice cracked. “May I have some water, please?”

“Here you go,” Ty supported her back as he helped her to a sitting position. Her hand shook as she held the glass. He curled his hand over hers as she drank.

“Thanks.” She missed the warmth of his body against hers after he laid her back down and moved to his chair. “God, I’m so confused!”

“Shhhh, or the Old Battle Ax will throw me out.” Ty leaned his elbows on her bed, unable to pull away from her completely.

“That ‘Old Battle Ax’ is a very good nurse. You Marines are all alike, no respect for the Medical Corps,” Jen smiled as they fell into the comfortable old banter.

“I agree, she’s a damn fine nurse. She’s sewed me up once or twice,” McQueen smiled. “Jen what in the world happened and how did you get out here?”

“No Ty, you first,” Jen reached for his hand, needing to touch him to make sure he was really alive. She needed assurance too badly to wonder why. “I was told all the Angry Angels died in The Battle Of The Edge.”

“We almost did,” he shook his head, not wanting to remember. “Three of us made it back to Earth. McDougall died before I shipped out and I don’t know what happened to Watts. The last time I saw him he was in a coma, on life support.”

"But you're all right, nothing happened to you?" Jenny watched his face in the shadows for any sign that he had been hurt.

"I'm alive," he dug for the words to tell her about that last battle. Until now he hadn't talked about it to anyone, since the official debriefing. "My Hammer took a hit and I lost stabilizer controls. As I was fighting to keep the Chigs off me long enough for my secondary systems to kick in, my console exploded. That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital in Loxley."

"Nooo," she whispered.

"The explosion shattered the faceplate of my helmet. I had burns, and a wrenched back, but the major damage was to my inner ear. My balance was destroyed. They were able to restore it by implanting a myo-electronic feedback device."

"But you're a Hammerhead pilot," Jenny gasped at the ramifications of what she was hearing. "Those MEF's can't withstand the G-forces produced in battle."

"I WAS a Hammerhead pilot," he smiled sadly.

“Oh God, I’m sorry Ty,” Jen shook her head in disbelief.

"It could have been worse," McQueen's voice had turned cool, indicating the subject was closed.

“What about Collins?” Jenny had been at Gloria's memorial service, but needed to hear first hand what had happened to her.

“She fought long and hard like we all did, but the Chigs blew her Hammerhead into a million pieces.”

“Oh, Gloria!” Jenny signed, feeling the lose of her friend deeply. The bond she had formed with Collins had been a strange one, surprising everyone, not least of all Gloria Collins.

“You two really became good friends didn’t you?” Ty smiled. “If any of us had tried to call her Gloria, she would have given us a black eye.”

“Wait a minute here," Jenny had been so distracted by the fact he had been injured, that she had let him lead her away from what had been worrying her. "I still don’t understand, Ty. I got a telegram from the Marines, officially notifying me of your death.”

“It had to have been a clerical error. So many people died in that battle. I’m sure at one point they thought we were all dead.” McQueen was trying to dance around the issue.

“But why would I get a telegram? It doesn’t make any sense,” Jen pushed.

“I put your name down as the person to be notified in case of emergency." He decided it would be easier to gloss over it now, than have her do any snooping on her own. "It seemed more appropriate than to leave Amy’s name there,” Ty was careful not to say when the change had taken place. After all, she had been his doctor three and a-half years ago, then again for almost a year when she was assigned as Medical Specialist to the Angels. It was the logical thing to do, wasn't it?

“Now it's your turn, Jen, how did you end up on that godforsaken planet?”

“I’m not sure really. I was still officially on medical leave, so I joined Dr. Werner in Washington when Chartwell was assassinated. Things were crazy. There was a state of martial law for in-vitros. They were being arrested and questioned, then forced to take an oath of allegiance. The worst part of it all was that no in-vitro was allowed the right of council.

"We took it all public. Being as noisy and pushy as possible. It was amazing, Ty. We raised enough support to force the issue. If we couldn't do away with the oath of allegiance, we insisted that any in-vitro that was questioned, be accompanied by one of the five of us, or a person of his or her own choosing. It took a while, but we were able to turn the tide of thinking."

Ty remember his own experience after Chartwell had been killed. If it hadn't been for Commodore Ross, he and Hawkes could have been in deep trouble. He still felt dirty when he thought about the incident.

“When we got back to the Invitro Health Facility, we had lost our grants and government funding and we had all been reassigned. It happened so quickly that none of us realized what was going on until it was too late.”

Something wasn't right here. McQueen didn't like what he was hearing, but he couldn't put his finger on the problem. It sounded to him as if someone wanted the doctors out of the way. Someone with power. “Where are the others assigned?” He carefully probed.

“I don’t know,” Jen sighed. “They split us up. I do know that we were all sent out in space, even Carmine Delaney. Ty, Carmine is almost 72 years old.”

“I’ll look into this.” McQueen's unease was growing. “It sounds as if your politics may have gotten you into trouble again.”

“I’m not going to argue politics with you tonight. My head hurts too much to think straight,” Jen challenged.

“It’s not your politics that bother me. It's the way you approach them.” Ty smiled. “Besides it would be a boring argument, since we believe in the same thing.”

“You can be so irritating when you split hairs like that.” Jen frowned, knowing he was teasing her.

“Speaking of split hairs?” Ty fingered her short curls, anxious to change the subject.

“I know, I know,” she moaned. “I took a K-bar to it the first week we were in the cave. It kept getting in my way. A very interesting thing a K-bar: kill your enemy, amputate an arm, chop fire wood and cut off your hair. No wonder you Marines always carry them.”

“Jen,” Ty touched her cheek to get her attention. “It’ll grow back.” He would rather have died than tell her how cute he thought she looked with the curly boy-cut. “Now you get some sleep.”

“All right.” Jenny was afraid to go back to sleep because of the dreams that waited there for her. Once Ty left he would never know that she hadn’t slept.

“Close your eyes, Jen.” Ty had seen the fear cross her face and knew about the demons that were waiting in her sleep. “I’ll stay here with you.”

“You won’t leave me?” She asked tiredly.

“No, I’m right here,” he promised.

Next : Chapter Two

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